In 2017, Congressional Black Caucus lawmakers approached then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey with a letter asking them to “devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly, or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.” Their letter noted that often times when children of color go missing, authorities often jump to the conclusion that they are runaways instead of potential victims of abduction.
Fortunately, despite the lack of attention towards finding and recovering victims of color, namely black and Latina girls, the family of Evelyn Colon is finding some peace.
Evelyn Colon was living in Jersey City, New Jersey when she went missing in 1976 at the age of fifteen.
At the time of her disappearance, Colon was living with her family of five and had become pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Luis Sierra.
“Back then, things were a little different,” Miriam Colon-Veltman, Evelyn’s niece explained in a recent interview with CNN. “It was a different culture, a different time, in the 70s. You get your girlfriend pregnant, you move out, and that’s how it is.”
According to Colon-Veltman Evelyn and her boyfriend moved into an apartment together. Colon’s mother would stay in touch with the two, checking in to make sure that they were okay until one day when she went to the apartment to visit. After knocking on the door she quickly realized no one was going to answer the door.
“She just left,” Colon-Veltman explained. “People around the neighborhood, they said, ‘Oh, they moved away.’ So that’s the story that we grew up learning.”
According to family members of Evelyn, they eventually received a letter from Sierra later. He explained that while things were fine, Evelyn didn’t want to be in contact with her family.
“They always felt she left with him to start her new life with him and she just wanted to stay away,” Evelyn’s nephew, Luis Colon Jr. explained before revealing that the family never heard from her again.
The family didn’t know that Evelyn was dead. Pennsylvania State Police found her body in 1976 but had not identified it until 45 years later.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the circumstanes of her death were brutal. Her dismembered body was discovered in three separate suitcases on the banks of the Lehigh River tossed beneath a bridge of Interstate 80 in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. The discovery happened on December 20, 1976.
At the time, Evelyn was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Her fetus, a girl, was removed from her body and discovered in one of the suitcases.
Colon was given the name “Beth Doe.” They did not know her name until this week.
In a statement to CNN, “Pennsylvania State Police said that it had both confirmed the identity of the remains as Evelyn Colon and her fetus, and arrested a suspect: Luis Sierra, Colon’s boyfriend.” According to CNN, Sierra, now 63, was arrested and “charged with one count of criminal homicide in Ozone Park, New York on March 31, where he is awaiting extradition, the statement said. No other details were released.”
Colon Jr. and Colon-Veltman, who are brother and sister, told CNN that Evelyn’s family never considered something terrible could have happened to their aunt.
The Colon’s been under the belief that Evelyn was taking care of her family throughout the years. Still, they worked hard to find her. Colon Jr. said that his father searched for her often. With the rise of Facebook, he hoped to find her. “I would see my grandmother, she would walk around Jersey City and look for her,” he explained. “‘Hey, did you see Evelyn?’ She would think she saw her and tell my other grandmother, ‘Hey, I think I saw Evelyn!’ She would say, ‘I don’t know why, I can’t find her.'”
“I was looking up these people on Facebook, and I went and messaged all these people,” Colon-Veltman told CNN. “I feel like an idiot now, doing that and (I might have been) scared I could’ve tipped somebody off, but even I was looking for her.”
Colon Jr.’s decision to submit his DNA to several genealogy sites and track down his aunt is what ultimately worked.
“About four years ago, I heard about the DNA stuff and I wanted to see hey, this would be an awesome tool if I could connect with family and specifically, connect with my cousin, because I knew she had a kid, or cousins, multiple children, or her,” he explained. “So I got the kits, purchased one for me, for my wife, ordered another one from another website because I felt the more sites I’m on, the more chance that something would come about from that.”
In March Colon Jr. got a match that put the entire puzzle together.
“I get notified that ‘Hey, your DNA was matched to a victim of a homicide,'” Colon Jr. explained. “So we got in touch and they asked me, ‘Do you know anyone in your family?’ and I immediately, once they reached out to me, I knew it was her.”
After 45 years, Pennsylvania State Police identified Beth Doe as Evelyn Colon.
“It was obvious, there was no other person in my family who was missing,” Colon Jr. said. “And that’s when the ball started rolling.”
Colon’s body was buried in White Haven, Pennsylvania, and the community has been tending to her grave ever since.
“We’re so thankful for that community, that Carbon County community, that they loved her, that they cared for her,” Colon-Veltman said. “They treated her like their own, these random people for all these years.”
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